Craft, Career & Cheer: Marjetta Geerling

Learn more about Marjetta Geerling.

Could you tell us about your writing community–your critique group or critique partner or other sources of creative support?

I am truly blessed to have landed in South Florida where there is an extremely active and supportive children’s writing community.

It’s an especially rich community for young adult writers because we are lucky enough to have YA author and professional mentor, Joyce Sweeney, to run local writing classes, workshops, and critique groups.

In the eight years I’ve been working with her, she not only nursed me through innumerable writing crises and kept believing in my writing even when I had serious doubts, she’s also become one of my dearest friends. Her generous spirit has helped many writers achieve their dream of being published.

At the 2009 SCBWI Miami conference, I was on a First Books panel, and all three of us mentioned Joyce’s help in our speeches. After my first few classes with Joyce, I told my husband, “When I grow up, I want to be Joyce Sweeney.”

Our SCBWI chapter [Florida SCBWI] is very active in bringing amazing speakers to Miami and Orlando twice per year, and a lot of the networking that comes out of those conferences builds lasting support between writers.

One of our local SCBWI’s missions is to get every writer in a writing group, and I’ve certainly taken advantage of the groups, both SCBWI and private, within driving distance of me. I’m currently in four, one of which I run, and although my attendance is not always regular lately, I am appreciative of the feedback and guidance I’ve received over the years.

In addition to my local community, I have a writing check-in partner who lives in New York. We set daily goals for ourselves and then cheer each other on as we attain them. It’s been a very successful strategy for both of us.

For me, first drafts are about quantity, not quality, so the check-in keeps me moving forward when I might otherwise get bogged down in doubt and procrastination.

Of course, the online communities are also filled with helpful and supportive folks from all levels of the business, so I’ve never had a question about the publishing world that wasn’t answered within a few hours! I’m not sure I would’ve have stuck with it long enough to ever get a book published if I hadn’t had my writing friends to keep me motivated.

What do you love most about being an author? Why?

What I love most about being an author is when I surprise myself. I think that’s why I like first drafts the best. I’m never sure exactly what’s going to happen until it does, and there’s no better feeling that cracking myself up or making myself cry.

I also really, really enjoyed my first book signing. The bookstore was packed with people from all the different aspects of my life–writing friends, work colleagues, current and former students and their families, my family–and I just couldn’t believe how many people came out to support me.

The bookstore had a “Fancy White Trash” costume contest, and it was hysterical to see what people wore. I had my boa, of course!

After my talk, I was constantly surrounded by a bouncing contingent of second graders. One of my students wrote to the paper about proud she was of me, and they printed it in the letters-to-the-editor section. I felt like such a super star!

Cynsational Notes

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children’s-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.